In the months leading up to the surprise raid earlier this week by the FBI on former President Donald Trump’s southern Florida property called Mar-a-Lago, the Justice Department subpoenaed and successfully obtained surveillance tapes from the Trump-owned resort.
These details are included in a new report from The New York Times. The FBI raid was conducted in connection to a Justice Department investigation into the handling of government records, including classified materials, from the Trump administration, which authorities evidently suspected might’ve partly remained at Mar-a-Lago. An attachment to the warrant identified classified materials as among items for seizure, assuming agents discovered such items, and Trump lawyer Christina Bobb also confirmed classified materials potentially at Mar-a-Lago were one of the targets. The push for surveillance footage seems likely connected to concerns about who might’ve accessed the classified materials already recovered from Mar-a-Lago at an earlier point.
The Times notes that Trump “would wave things like the North Korean leader’s letters at people, as if they were collectors’ items he was showing off.” Letters from North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Un, with whom Trump repeatedly met without much coming of it, were among items originally transported to Mar-a-Lago. Trump once claimed he and Kim “fell in love,” which is certainly strange for a U.S. president to say about themselves and a murderous dictator. A report from The Guardian raises the possibility of a federal counterintelligence investigation into issues related to the Trump administration records taken to Mar-a-Lago, and an official responsible for counterintelligence issues — Jay Bratt, who serves as Chief of the Counterintelligence and Export Control Section (CES) of the National Security Division within the U.S. Justice Department — was among four Justice Department officials who went to Mar-a-Lago in early June for in-person discussions about the transfer of documents out of D.C.
The subpoena for the surveillance footage from Mar-a-Lago went out after the June gathering at Mar-a-Lago featuring Bratt and other officials. Per the Times, officials “came to question” in recent weeks whether what Trump’s team was telling them regarding documents Trump already returned to authorities was “entirely accurate.”
Meanwhile, earlier concerns from the National Archives — which recovered over a dozen boxes of federal records from Mar-a-Lago earlier this year and discovered the previously uncovered classified materials, the agency said — were evidently more wide-ranging. “The archivists also discovered that Mr. Trump had not returned several documents that they believed the former president had in his possession,” the Times explains, discussing the agency’s findings after getting that separate, earlier stash. The boxes previously recovered by the National Archives were obtained by the agency from Trump’s team in January.
Agents took what some reporting said was about 10 additional boxes from Mar-a-Lago earlier this week. Previously, the work of a grand jury working on the Trump documents matter was pushed beyond its initial end date. It’s unclear as of this point whether Trump might ever be charged for a crime, and there’s been little public input from federal law enforcement about what happened. Attorney General Merrick Garland hasn’t commented, although House GOP leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) made sure to issue a showy threat of investigating Garland assuming Republicans reclaim the House — which is, generally speaking, exactly what Congress already does in terms of oversight.